Monday, April 23, 2012

Dominican Player of the Week: Juan Francisco of the Atlanta Braves

The Dominican Baseball Guy has awarded Juan Francisco of the Braves as his Dominican Player of the Week. Juan hit .375 with three home runs last week, and got some votes for player of the week in the National League.

It is no secret Juan Francisco is one of the favorite players of the Dominican Baseball Guy.  He was playing with the Gigantes del Cibao in 2009, the year I followed the Gigantes for the entire Dominican Winter Baseball League (LIDOM) season.  That year he won the MVP of the Dominican Winter League, and he also won it in 2009.  He was either at the top or close to the top of the LIDOM in home runs, RBI, and average in both of those years.

He had a slower year this past off-season in the LIDOM.  As he has gotten closer and closer to securing a regular big league gig, his playing time in LIDOM has gone down.  He had played in 81 big league games going into this season for the Reds, but they decided to trade him this off-season.

His power is his calling card.  Juan is one of the best guys to see in batting practice.  Kids line the outside of the stadium waiting for him to hit them balls, which they will use to play at their own games and practices.  During games, the stadium always stopped for Juan Francisco, aka "El Diamante."  Not sure where the nickname came from, but during that year the announcers started calling him "The Diamond of Bonao."  Francisco is from Bonao, Republica Dominicana.  I saw him hit one shot in San Francisco de Macoris at the Julian Javier stadium that I swore went over the lights.  We all lost it in the lights, and people were saying "he hit it to the moon."

Lots of people say that he is a below average fielder and that he strikes out a lot.  And he does.  But the Dominican Baseball Guy still thinks he is going to be a star, as I predicted two years ago when I first saw him play in Dominican Winter League action.  I think his power and his clutch play will be enough to outweigh deficiencies elsewhere.  He won a lot of games for the Gigantes that season with late inning heroics.  And, after all, I cannot go back on my prediction now.

The only other Dominican player to receive votes in the player of the week race in either league was Rafael Furcal of Loma de Cabrera, Dominican Republic.
Dominican player of the week Juan Francisco bats in the Midwest League in 2007, photo by Joel Dinda on Flickr

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